« God, Obama, Notre Dame | Main | Either Protagonists, Moved by Mercy, or Nobodies »

Apr 07, 2009



Hey, that judgment looks pretty similar to my judgment in the comments below...CL just needs to learn how to analyze propositions such as:

Let P be Inviting Obama to Notre Dame, Q as a Catholic institution that is faithful to catholic principles:

(x) (Qx --> ~P )

etc...it's cooler that way


Too bad it doesn't go beyond the typical CL language.

I have to be honest, Stephen, when I first read this flyer I was quite disappointed. I think it suffers from numerous problems.

Let me begin by saying that I don't honestly disagree with its substance. It is a beautiful vision of a Catholic university and the understanding of Christ's presence. But it begs the question, just for whom is this judgment being made?

First, there is the question of language. Sooner or later someone in CL needs to scream this from the mountain top: the charism is not the CL language! I grow weary of reading beautiful statements that are only meaningfully accessible to those who choose to adopt our language. This is a public judgment and, while I don't deny the importance of bringing what we have to offer to the table, I think we all need to exercise greater care in CL to use language that will actually be understood by those outside of the Movement. I think that is part of the heavy lifting of living that Carron reminds us we cannot shirk. I fear that this flyer is so dense and trapped in its own language that those outside of CL will not invest the time necessary to unlock its beauty.

Second, it is quite abstract. Let's be blunt, it offers no concrete indication for how to change the ND situation, how to bring about the ideal that it suggests. I'm not suggesting the statement must be burdened with that entirely. Goodness, I know that we cannot remove from others the duty to engage in the difficult work of incarnating these ideas. But then let's be honest about what this statement really is. I think CL should cease calling these flyers "judgments" precisely because of this problem. Words are important; written provocations have meaning. But I think CL can often get too caught up in itself and think it has done more than it has with these flyers. If we leave the task of incarnating our message to others, I think we have to be honest then that we haven't done much.

Which leads me to the issue that this flyer gives me no indication of the ND CLU's reaction to the situation. That's the judgment that will be heard and remembered.

Maybe I'm a bit too snarky today, but I honestly wonder outside of impacting CL members and making them feel good that they are not trapped by the ideological times, what honestly does this flyer aim to do? It doesn't really engage anyone else.


Your position is ideological. There aren't CL words above, there are Christian words above. Also, it's not abstract. It's not a judgment on whether Obama should speak at Notre Dame or not. Who really cares about that fight? The real question is whether the Christian event is even possible, is even proposed.

What strikes me is that this judgment is subversive because you can't fit it into an ideological framework in this debate. In that respect what happens is that people either misunderstand it at best, or are angered by it, at worst. Yet, no one does the work of asking what it's really trying to say and whether that is really worth saying.

I've sent this flyer to many friends who are ND grads and not in the movement. They have all been provoked by the judgment. I think the first problem is whether it provokes you.

This is what gets me. We're talking about Christianity here, which is a fascination with that man who comes to me. Yet everyone is always busy building something other than the relationship with Christ. "Martha, you are busy with many things, only one thing is necessary." We always forget this.

And now, I'm sure someone will try to explain it away, say how we have to worry about "what we're doing, how we're doing it."

But I repeat, only one thing is necessary.



I will admit my comments were a touch snarky, but your reaction is shockingly closed.

If we wish to actually engage me, then I'm happy to talk. But otherwise, it's a waste of time. Frankly, this reminds me of other conversations we have had. I think you are off the mark. But if you don't wish to engage what I actually have said, then I leave it to others to whom you are more open to maybe share what I am getting at. I know my reaction to this statement is not alone. And you can't dismiss all of us as ideological folks who don't get it.

I'm glad you are so focused on Christ. And I appreciate your relentlessness in returning to the heart of the encounter. But you need to cool your jets in labeling anyone who suggests a fuller picture of what we have been given, what the unfolding of the event of Christ means in the context of the reality that He has now made present through His Church, as someone who is ideological, left/right, etc.



Let me be clear here, I'm not trying to be dismissive of you. I'm trying to suggest that the argument you outline above is ideological precisely because it does not engage the point of the judgment and rests on reacting to it because of its language and its (in my opinion) misinterpreted lack of a position.

It's as if we (really, we, including me) immediately think that because we have had an encounter now we have to figure out how to act in the world faithful to that encounter, which risks immediately becoming an ideological approach to the world: "I've got the answer now and I'm going to do x, y, and z to bring about the good result." I think this is a wrong approach primarily because being Christian isn't about moral action or cultural/political success.

Instead, what the judgment claims is that this type of approach is precisely what leads to both the invitation to Obama at a level of self-seeking secular glory AND the reactionary sectarianism which implies closing off our institutions to an engagement with the world that is transformative, for the world, but first for us.

Unfortunately, in this schema those on one side want Obama to be invited to vindicate their position against the perceived "conservatives," and on the other those who want Obama to be disinvited therefore winning one for the "good side."

Entering into the debate at this level avoids dealing with Christ, proposing Christ as the only real solution to this debate, affirming Christ as both the meaning of the university, the meaning of Obama, and the meaning of the dialogue.

I'm not interested in a discussion at this level. The only thing I'm closed to is whatever moves the conversation away from what the judgment is appealing to, which is the encounter with Christ.

I don't think we make judgments on things so that we can claim to offer the "right" answer to the drama. I think we make judgments first and foremost so that we can look at something in reality beginning from that man who accomplished nothing in his lifetime that changed the political or cultural situation of his time, he only proposed himself as the necessary and essential aspect of reality that all needed to follow.


Stephen, dude, you started off responding to me by doing the CL equivalent of flipping me the bird. I'm glad that you have come back with a response that is at least not overtly hostile, but you still aren't dialoging with me.

So just for the record, the first half of your response has nothing to do with me. It has no relation to anything I wrote. It has everything to do what you perceive are the reasons someone who has concerns about the judgment must be motivated by when approaching this. Well, I'm here to tell you that they are not what I am motivated by in this at all. Maybe now do me the benefit of the thing you accuse me of not doing: engage my words with an effort to understand the intent behind them.

Your last paragraph, Stephen, could bear some real reflection. I don't think it reflects the truth of judgments, either our own experiences or even what scripture records about Jesus' time. I'm not saying I am advocating a flyer that says, "Inviting Obama was wrong!" or "Congrats on inviting Obama!" But you are behaving like a judgment that actually tries to speak more directly to the actual event, something that goes beyond just a direct proclamation that "Christ is everything" somehow is a denial of the truth that Christ is everything. I think you are wrong in that. Sure, there's a risk of reduction/distortion the moment that we have to make a prudential judgment on how the event of Christ informs a given concrete situation of our life. And thus we should never be in a rush to throw our prudential judgments around to others when there's a chance we are wrong. But at the same time, we have to make such judgments constantly in living. What you say is a reminder that we all need constantly, and a vital part of the self-evaluation that we need to undertake, but it cannot be mistaken for a formula to replace other formulas.


Jack -

I hope I might be able to clear some things up concerning the judgment. In my post, "Either Protagonists, Moved by Mercy, or Nobodies" I also addressed the issue of the Obama-Notre Dame Controversy. For me, the point it brought up most clearly- the point that saddened me- was that the Church on both sides of the argument was viewed as some kind of political organization. I am by no means saying that the Church cannot possess a politics; I am saying the Church, in order to remain the Church, must not be reduced to politics.

It seems to me that those who want a definitive condemnation of Obama or of the university are unwittingly making this reduction. What would happen if the invitation was revoked? The Church would be seen as a moralist and protectionist agency that shepherds the goodness of the world from the tyranny of evil men. Eventually, and more devastatingly, the Church would disappear into cultural oblivion. The fact that this could and probably would happen indicates to me that a revocation of the invitation is not the root of the problem.

So what is the root of the problem? The root of the problem is a question of whether the Christian event (an encounter with Christ) is even possible. The very fact that people are up in arms about the invitation indicates to me that there is a kind of emptiness in Christianity, such that those who adhere to it are forced into a false kind of activism to hide the emptiness of a Church-minus-the-Event. This is what the flyer attempts to address. Thus, it is the most useful thing for the situation rather than the most irrelevant. Think about what Jesus himself does in the gospels: people always try to trick him, to force him into a box, that is, an ideology, and thus to make a condemnation. Christ never does this; he speaks always to the heart of man, which is the only thing that transcends the political spectrum because it transcends ideology.

If this is the true root of the problem, then it is more consonant with my (our) experience as Christians to repeat that this Event is certainly possible, rather than to make a condemnation that plays into the hands of both the left and the right. Steve said something completely disarming in a previous post: it was something like "I met Christ at Notre Dame. Why wouldn't I want Obama to go there?" This disarms ideology immediately, because neither side, unless they get to the heart of the problem, can address this question. And the question is certainly not an approval of the invitation but rather an assertion that Christ is a Fact that comes before our opinions. We seek this Fact in making judgments, otherwise we just confirm what we already think we know or we push farther ahead with what we think is right. Judgments are an occasion for conversion of ourselves, not condemnations of others.

It is fine with me if you want to continue to seek a condemnation. More interesting to me is that I be put in wonder again by the Fact of Christ's death for me, starting tonight at the Mass of the Last Supper, and tomorrow, following behind the Cross as He goes to His death. A death, by the way, that He died not so that we might condemn those without hope, but so that we ourselves might witness to the eternal life He made accessible, and the hundredfold He gives already on earth through the possibility that He comes in every situation. This is the basis of hope, and this is what interests me.

I hope you have a joyous Easter, filled with His presence in your eyes, because Christ is the only thing that saves the world.


Cheeky Lawyer

I would propose to both Stephen and Francis that they try to understand why people are up in arms -- including many bishops -- about this invitation. Can you try to ask why they might be against it? (And for the record I do not think that ND should now withdraw the invitation. I do believe she needs to understand where she went wrong and to that degree I think the judgement goes to the heart and core of things, but it still lives me questioning and dissatisfied.) Can you stop placing your own prominent ideological filter on the situation and try to address reality? You might begin by admitting that the responses to this situation are not binary, they do not fall into the two neat little boxes both of you have set up. You might recognize that there are many responses to the invitation. Some of them cartoonish (e.g., Bishop Doran's letter, Terry Randall, the Newman Society) and others more substantive like that of the CSC priests who published an open letter in the Observer. Your quickness to paint this as solely a question of politics is dismaying. I know plenty of people who are dismayed at the invitation for reasons having nothing to do with politics and everything to do with witness and unity.

I suppose it could be that they are just trying to "hide the emptiness of a Church-minus-the-Event." Or it could be that the event of the encounter with Christ has generated for them a deeper desire to follow the Church, her way, to be united, to give witness to Him and to give witness to the dignity of each person he has created. So one can continue with nice constructs and abstractions about the situation or one can do what I thought CL teaches us to do and actually deal with facts and reality. Part of taking reality seriously is taking the criticisms of Notre Dame seriously, taking the experience of many in CL who are appalled at this invitation seriously, taking reason seriously. That means not placing people into neatly constructed boxes that have no connection to reality, to their real concerns, their real experience. When I look at how both you and Stephen dismiss the concerns and questions of so many, I want to wretch because your comments are wrapped in condescension and, yes, a denial of reality.

I have now heard this line "I met Christ at Notre Dame. Why wouldn't I want Obama to go there?" several times. It is fatuous. It says nothing and only begs questions. It isn't rooted in the encounter with Him. It is an empty phrase of the sort you are criticizing others of. I meet Christ in the Eucharist, why wouldn't I want Obama to take it?

Cheeky Lawyer

I might just add that I am trying to approach the flyer with an openness and to let it teach me.


Cheeky -

I will attempt to address your concerns as best as I can:

1. Can you understand why people are up in arms?

Yes I can: it seems like Notre Dame is endorsing a pro-choice politician, especially by giving him an honorary degree.

2. "Can you stop placing your own ideological filter on the situation? And can you realize that some people are upset and are motivated not by a desire for political gain but for witness and unity?"

Christ is not an ideological filter but the truth of everything, particularly the human heart, which is characterized by an unlimited desire. Inasmuch as real unity comes from an answer to that heart, Christ must be the starting point. Yes, I also desire witness and unity. In fact, my friend told me a couple hours ago that his non-Catholic friend has been thinking about conversion recently and was struck by the flyer and my post. Why? Certainly not my intelligence or my positions on things will be the things that convert him. Only a witness to Christ is capable of this.

3. "Part of taking reality seriously is taking the criticisms of Notre Dame seriously, taking the experience of many in CL who are appalled at this invitation seriously, taking reason seriously."

What is reason? It is the capacity of accounting for reality according to the totality of its factors. I am not denying those factors you mentioned. I am trying to seek a broadening of reason concerning my position in front of the controversy. I was forced to broaden my position when I try account for this truth: "Many of my friends met Christ at Notre Dame." How is that fatuous at all? It seems to have everything to do with what is at stake here, which is if the Christian event is really possible, and thus if it is worth defending and witnessing.

4. I meet Christ in the Eucharist, why wouldn't I want Obama to take it?

I agree with this statement. I want everyone to be united to the Church, not because I want to convince everyone of the truth, as if this were a debate game, but because I want everyone to experience the hundredfold. I am not saying let Obama into the communion line right away. That would be rediculous. I am trying to say that our witness and Obama's conversion, the conversion of the world, depend on something deeper than taking sides in the argument.

5. "I know plenty of people who are dismayed at the invitation for reasons having nothing to do with politics and everything to do with witness and unity."

Me too. The flyer itself: "The community finds itself divided and confused, and the integrity of the University’s educational mission is being challenged. On such an occasion, with great urgency we feel the need to take hold of the reasons for which such an institution exists."

It seems the flyer is attempting to answer the question of witness and unity, and thus tries to answer why such an institution exist. And its answer to these questions is the encounter with Christ. I do not think there could be a more serious criticism of Notre Dame: the reason you exist is so that the world may encounter Christ. It is a serious criticism of me as well, of all of us.

That is my judgment; I don't think anything more than that would help the situation. The only other available positions are, "Inviting Obama was wrong!" or "Congrats on inviting Obama!" Unless I am missing something, I fail to see how Christ, (who dies this weekend and descends into the depths of hell and is raised from the dead, and who now is forever the root, the reason for all that exists), I fail to see how Christ does not account for everything in this situation, and how a judgment that seeks to perceive this Fact is leaving a part of reality out. I would posit that the reason people are up in arms is not the invitation itself but a concern of whether Christianity is still possible. The flyer responds with a resounding "yes".

Perhaps a condemnation of the invitation would be the treatment of a symptom, but the flyer is attempting to address the root of the disease.


The comments to this entry are closed.